Energy is great. Health Care is important. Taxes matter. But the 2010 governor’s race has to be about jobs.
After my third consecutive Inter-City Leadership visit with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Chambers of Commerce, this year to Charlotte, N.C., it is more apparent than ever that the candidate for Minnesota governor in 2010 who articulates the biggest vision for jobs will win.
It can’t be a talking point in the same sentence as energy, health care and taxes. It has to set the candidate apart from anything Minnesota has heard.
If the sobering demographic trends recited regularly by Tom Gillaspy, our state demographer, and Tom Stinson, our state economist, share about our aging population and need for a future workforce aren’t enough, the idea that solutions to those problems can win an election should be motivating.
Consider that Charlotte, a place that 20 years ago many of us had never heard of, now has a recruiting and marketing effort that competes with the Twin Cities metro area. Also consider that since the late Gov. Rudy Perpich we haven’t had a big idea governor focusing on jobs. He may have been nicknamed Governor Goofy, but he was bold and he brought a constant sense of aspiration and audacity to our attitude.
In the past, Minnesota enjoyed a strong of job market — from banking and financial services to industry related to natural resources in grains, lumber, paper and iron ore. In the most recent decade the medical device industry has sustained our growth.
However, the alarm for GOPers and the alert for DFLers is that the issue of jobs is not a partisan issue. All indications are that the civic leaders of both political parties are ready for leadership from the governor’s office that is laser focused on jobs and economic development.
And it’s not about criticizing Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It’s about a sense that it is time for Minnesota to make a big move to become the best state for a developing industry.
The energy of many groups — from the Itasca Project to the Urban Land Institute and Regional Council of Mayors — that are exploring our strengths and opportunities is a resource candidates in both parties should take advantage of and then proclaim a vision.
The curious opportunity for the candidates is that the business community is tired of Pawlenty’s schtick. They appreciate what he has done, but as noticed by moans and groans after his recent speech at the Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, he has lost his ability to sell a vision for big ideas for Minnesota.
While we may be inherently passive in our heritage, Minnesota has built its economy with bold ideas and innovation. Our next governor should sell the same boldness that has made 3M, Medtronic and Mayo Clinic pillars of what we are known for: global innovation.
In this era of hyper-partisanship, volatile electorates and ultra-safe campaign strategies, the candidate who risks the most on a bold vision for job growth in Minnesota will win — and might even be nicknamed Goofy.